In the wake of Friday attacks that left over 100 civilians dead in Paris, senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz doubled down on calls for the United States to admit only Christian refugees from war-ravaged Middle Eastern nations, according to a report from the Washington Post.
More than a decade of war across the Middle East has displaced hundreds of thousands of people, largely from Syria, where a years-long civil war between governing forces and a slew of rebel groups, including ISIS, has recently escalated with major bombing campaigns by the United States, Russia, France and others.
According to the United Nations, the conflict has left 13.5 million people, including 6 million children, in need of protection and aid.
But revelations that attackers who gunned down crowds and set off explosives in the French capital Friday were Syrian has stirred fears that militants could be hiding among the refugees fleeing their violence.
Cruz, a prominent voice for highly conservative American Christians, told reporters at a South Carolina campaign event Sunday that the United States should prohibit Muslim refugees from entering, citing safety concerns, according to the Post. Instead he suggested the county focus relief efforts on Middle Eastern Christians.
“There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror,” Cruz said, according to the Post. “If there were a group of radical Christians pledging to murder anyone who had a different religious view than they, we would have a different national security situation.”
Other Republic presidential candidates have also suggested barring entry for Syrian Muslims, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday that Texas wouldn’t permit entry for Syrians, citing concerns that militants could lurk among them.
In addition to Syria, throngs of people have flocked out of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, where ruling governments have been toppled or undermined in recent years, giving way to the dominance of brutal extremist groups. The phenomenon has been called the greatest refugee crisis facing Europe since WWII, as hundreds of thousands of homeless people arrive in the continent on foot, seeking shelter.
Currently, the Obama administration plans to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees through 2016.